Out of the Cool - Contemporary Music for Flute and Piano
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)
Winter Music (1960) [10:57]
Summer Music (1983) [10:21]
Robert SAXTON (b. 1953)
Krystallen (1973) [6:39]
Cecilia McDOWALL (b.1951)
The Moon Dances (2003) [13:57]
Arthur BUTTERWORTH (b.1923)
Aubade Op.53 (1973) [5:01]
David HEATH (b.1956)
Out of the Cool (1986) [6:37]
Brian LOCK (b.1967)
Sonata for Flute and Piano (2004) [16:39]
Susan Milan (flute)
Andrew Ball (piano)
rec. November 2007, St Michael’s Church, Highgate
MÉTIER MSV28510 [70:16]

‘Out of the Cool’, verbally at least, summons up the days of Gil, and Miles, and Where Flamingos Fly; CBS and tight slim ties, and all that kind of clobber. It’s David Heath who invokes it in his 1986 piece that gives its name to the title of the disc - but I suppose there’s a cool air to quite a few works here, however simplistic that may sound.

For example Richard Rodney Bennett’s Winter Music has assimilated serial procedure sure enough but progresses in a kind of languorously pensive kind of way. An unsettled dialogue between flute and piano occupies the central movement. Then a mazily, meandering, uneasy passage opens the finale, before Bennett relaxes his terse grip and takes the pianist way up high, the flute lines resolving delightfully. His Summer Music was written many years later in 1983. Here we find insouciant lyricism in the first movement, an afternoon stroll of an Allegro tranquillo. There’s a languid song with bluesy piano undertow in the second movement - it’s a second cousin, once removed, of My Funny Valentine - before the jaunty flute and slightly pawky piano play a wry game to the finishing line.

Saxton’s Krystallen was premiered by Susan Milan, to whom it’s dedicated. Saxton ensures there are spaces in his landscape. Phrasing is flexible, and the writing is extremely effective with regard to phraseology and colour. The Moon Dances is not a relation of John Adams’s Chairman. I will say though that this versatile and enjoyable piece opens with bright energy, and takes in a carnivalesque element. The slow movement establishes a darkening mien. It’s crepuscular and insinuating and the flute’s ‘lost in the forest’ tone, plaintive and regretful, is eventually displaced by the firefly glitter of the finale.

Arthur Butterworth crafted Aubade in the same year that Saxton wrote his flute piece, 1973. It’s a warm affair and offers splendid opportunities for legato phrasing and breath control. Whereas David Heath’s piece has a really confident lyricism and hints of a Herbie Mann or Hubert Laws paternity in some of the writing. Whatever, it exudes vitality and generosity. Brian Lock’s Sonata was dedicated to Susan Milan and first performed by her. Lock is not bashful. There’s driving melodrama from the go, and throughout Lock has secreted moments of Prokofiev-like drive and rhythmic emphases. His central panel is quite spare, whilst the finale is a kind of perpetuum mobile and has the expected energy level.

Susan Milan, who has had a close association with a number of these works, proves a first class, characterful and unimpeachable guide. Andrew Ball offers staunch and imaginative support.

Jonathan Woolf 

see also review by Carla Rees